Monday, May 18, 2020

Sustainable Stories: Which washing powder?


This month’s blog is brought to you by Clare Docking, one of our advisory teachers who works with industry and schools in the East of England.

I love sharing this activity with our partner schools. children really enjoy getting stuck into cleaning the stains off fabrics using different washing products whilst at the same time improving their investigation skills.  The activity lends itself to being run with a small number of children in a mixed aged classroom – something that is a reality for many teachers at the moment.  Children can also work outdoors if the weather is fine.

Getting Ready

As the free resource explains, the only kit you will need is readily available household equipment.  Asking children to bring small samples of different washing powder, liquid or gels from home will give you a selection to compare without any unnecessary shopping trips.  You could also include the children in the preparation by working with them to produce the stained fabric ready to test.




Full details of the activity can be found in our free publication and incudes teachers’ notes, children’s activity sheets and national curriculum links.


Planning the investigation

I have found that the interactive planning tool  is a great way for children to organise their thoughts as they plan how they are going to carry out their investigation.  If children haven’t used one before, work with them to show them how they can use it to record all of the possible variables and to decide what they are going to measure and what they are going to keep the same.  They may find this easier to do if they have the opportunity to ‘have a play’ with the materials first and therefore begin to formulate their ideas about which product they think might be the most effective.  They can then decide how they can prove that their hypothesis is right!  With this in mind, make sure that you have plenty of spare stained cloths and washing product so that you still have enough left when you begin the main investigation.



Instead of using the interactive planning tool you may choose to use the post-it planning template which is provided with the resource.  This will be particularly useful if you are working outdoors.

Sharing results

In my experience children can be just as engaged when it comes to sharing their results as they are when carrying out the main activity.  Two approaches that I have seen used effectively are asking children to write to the manufacturer to advise them of their findings and writing an advertisement extolling the virtues of the most effective product.  I find that children love using phrases such as ‘Scientists found that XXX was more effective at xxx than the brand leader’ knowing that they are the scientists that carried out the test!




Perhaps children could shoot a TV commercial to explain to consumers why they think that they should buy a particular product?


I usually round off the session with our PowerPoint presentation showing the children how the scientists at one company have been able to produce a more environmentally friendly washing product. It protects fabrics from damage and prevents colours from fading during washing.  This will help children to understand that science can help us to tackle environmental problems and that science could be a worthwhile career choice for themselves in the future.


Visit  our IndusTRY AT HOME page to find a version of this activity that can be shared directly with families





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